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Tips on Surviving Your First Winter Season

An illustration of Canadian mountains at sunset or sunrise: the sky is pink, the mountains fade to white, and an alpine lake weaves between the mountains.

It’s that time of year again! Locals begin to take out their big boots, puffy jackets and warm mittens just in time for winter. Many start to wonder whether it will be slightly warmer than the last.

As an international student, this may be your first time experiencing a true winter. It’s certainly very exciting, especially when you see snow for the first time. However there are many things to consider in advance!

Now, what you’ve heard about winters in Canada and the U.S. is entirely true: it gets really cold. For those studying abroad in either country, here are some tips on surviving your first winter season.

A warm jacket

A proper winter jacket, also known as a parka, is absolutely necessary. Quite possibly the most important tip on making it through your first winter season. Without one, you will definitely have a challenge making it through the chilly weather. Many parkas are waterproof and are designed to handle low temperatures. Further, it’s important to get a parka you are comfortable in. Remember, you’ll be wearing this everyday!

When shopping for a jacket, there are many good brands. However, some brand names could cost more than others. Overall, a winter jacket is an investment and will last you many years. Consider the following brands for winter jackets: The North Face, Patagonia, Columbia, Arc’teryx. You may also consider checking Winners or Marshalls, Costco or Sail for good sales.

Proper winter boots

Yet another item you should own to make it through the winter season. Sneakers will not do the trick. Not only will your feet get wet, but you may slip and hurt yourself when walking. Similar to a good jacket, quality winter boots may not be cheap. However, you get what you pay for. If you’re on a tight budget and plan to stay for only a year or two, you can choose to buy an inexpensive pair. Conversely, if you plan to stay longer, consider investing in a quality pair of boots.

Some brands to consider are: The North Face, UGG, Sorel, Columbia, Pajar, Kamik. It’s possible to find some of these brands in warehouses or department shops such as The Bay, Winners, Marshalls, Costco and Sail.

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Fleece-lined hat

You now have a winter jacket and boots. But there are a couple more things you’ll need to get through your first winter season. This includes a hat — or as many locals call it, a toque. This is needed to protect your head and ears from the cold and in some cases, frostbite. What is frostbite? It’s when your skin freezes due to long exposure to freezing temperatures. This can be avoided if you bundle up and wear a hat! We highly suggest a fleece-lined hat that covers your ears entirely. Wearing one will make a big difference. With a hat, you’ll be able to withstand the cold temperatures for longer.

When shopping for a jacket and boots, those same stores will most likely carry hats. Brands don’t matter so much, so it isn’t necessary to spend much money on a hat. Get one you like and will wear throughout the entire season. Perhaps one that matches your new jacket and boots!

Cozy scarf and gloves

Similar to the hat, a scarf and gloves will cover up the remaining parts of your body to ensure your body stays warm. A scarf will protect your neck, while gloves (or mittens) will protect your hands and wrists. These small additions can make a big difference in your comfort. You may consider purchasing gloves or mittens with a fleece lining. Both scarves and gloves come in different styles and materials. Find what product works best for you. It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money on either item. You can find them for a cheap cost at shops mentioned previously, even Walmart!

Moisturize often

This tip doesn’t have anything to do with your wardrobe, however it’s one item to store in your pocket at all times. Moisturizer! To make it through your first winter season, it’s important to moisturize your lips, hands and face. Winters can cause your skin to dry and crack, or your lips to become chapped. In some cases, it can be painful. This is easily avoidable — just keep hand cream and a lip balm with you. To purchase either items, consider Shoppers Drug Mart and Walmart in Canada. If you’re in the U.S., Walgreens, Target or CVS will carry these items.

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Drink hot liquids

It’s always important to stay hydrated, however in the winter, it’s key to drink hot liquids. This includes coffee, tea, apple cider or hot chocolate. Perhaps even another beverage you enjoy drinking hot! This will keep your body warm on colder days, and drinking hot tea will help prevent any illnesses circulating. You may consider purchasing a travel mug. Similar to a thermos, a travel mug keeps your beverage warm while allowing you to drink directly from the container. It’s best to purchase one that’s leak-proof and double-walled this way it keeps the heat from escaping. To purchase one, consider Walmart, Target, Davids Tea or Starbucks.

Drive slow

If you plan to drive, it’s very important to be aware of the weather conditions. Many students who haven’t experienced a winter season may not realize this, but the roads do get very slippery. As a result, they pose dangerous conditions. Further, flurries cause a lack of visibility. It’s critical to drive slow, be aware of your surroundings, and to have winter tires. This cannot be stressed enough. Winter tires will give your car a better grip and will prevent it from sliding. If you don’t feel comfortable driving, consider taking the public transit, Uber or walking.


The most important tip of all. This is your first winter season…enjoy it! Get into the holiday spirit and participate in local activities. Be active and go skiing, snowboarding or skating. Drink a hot chocolate, stroll the streets and embrace the cold. Build a snowman or an igloo. There is so much to do in the winter season. Make it a memorable one. Remember to dress in layers, stay warm and be safe!

Interested in experiencing your first winter? Let ApplyBoard help you study abroad in Canada or the U.S. Find a school that’s the perfect fit for you here!


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